Hocking family

James and Elizabeth Hocking of St Stephen in Brannel, Cornwall had two sons who entered the UMFC ministry .

Silas Kitto Hocking (1850-1935; e.m. 1869) was born on 24 March 1850. He had a particularly popular ministry at Duke Street, Southport, 1883-96. He then moved to London, but without pastoral charge, devoting himself to writing and Liberal politics, standing unsuccessfully for Parliament in 1906 and 1910. He resigned from the ministry in 1906. He wrote nearly 100 novels. His second book Her Benny (1879) is said to have been the first novel in the world to sell over one million copies; set in Liverpool, where he was stationed as a probationer in 1873-76, it was the basis of a successful musical by Anne Dalton in 1993. He wrote an autobiography, My Book of Memory (1923) and died at Highgate on 15 September 1935.

His brother Joseph Hocking (1860-1937; e.m. 1884) was born on 7 November 1860 and was educated at Owens College, Manchester. He served mainly in London circuits before retiring through ill-health in 1910. He wrote nearly 100 novels, including Jabez Easterbrook (1890) which brought him both popular and commercial success. Cornwall, an idealized Methodism, war, jingoism and papistical infiltration of England (e.g. in The Scarlet Woman) were prominent themes in his writing.

In 1909 the Catholic Truth Society published a collection of pamphlets entitled A Brace of Bigots (Dr Horton & Mr Hocking). Hocking and R.F. Horton replied the next year with Shall Rome Reconquer England? His novels The Eternal Choice (1932) and Not One in Ten (1933) reflect the Methodism of the period of Methodist Union. He died at Perranporth on 4 March 1937. His daughter Anne Hocking (1890-1966) was also a prolific novelist.

Salome Fifield Hocking (1859-1927), sister to Silas and Joseph and married to the London publisher Arthur C. Fifield, was born in April 1859 and died at Coulsdon, Surrey on 10 April 1927. She was the author of ten novels.


The 'paradox of the Hockings': 'On the one hand, they were a modernising influence in nonconformity at the didactic end of the genre; on the other they laced the novel too thickly with Methodism for their works to eventually become canonized.'

A.M. Kent, Pulp Methodism, p. 143

'In their fiction as in their careers in ministry, both Silas and Joseph Hocking increasingly turned away from conservative dogmatism and sought to promote practical charity over eccesiastical order… Silas gradually moved away from the explicit Methodism of his early works, while Joseph set one of his last novels (somewhat improbably) against the background of the Methodist union of 1932.'

'There was perhaps some development over time, from an explicit, often Methodist piety, to an ethic of practical Christianity, without denominationalism, but the tone of the books was always thoroughly respectable.'

'The underlying ethic endorsed by the Hockings was one of earnest endeavour, honour and honesty, thrift and generosity, courage and sobriety, with a respect for the Sabbath, a horror of alcohol and a preference for practical Christianity over dogma.'

Martin Wellings, 'Pulp Methodism Revisited', pp. 369, 371, 372

  • Arthur C. Fifield, In Memoriam: Salome Hocking Fifield (Coulsdon, 1927)
  • R.F.S. Thorne, Hocking: the works of Joseph, Silas and Salome (1978)
  • A.M. Kent, Pulp Methodism: the lives and literature of Silas, Joseph and Salome Hocking (St. Austell, 2002)
  • Gemma Goodman, Salome Hocking: a Cornish woman writer (Penzance, 2004)
  • Martin Wellings, '"Pulp Methodism" revisited: the literature and significance of Silas and Joseph Hocking' , in Peter Clarke and Charlotte Methuen (eds), The Church and Literature (Woodbridge, 2012) pp.362-73
  • Martin Wellings, From 'The Soul of Dominic Wildthorne' to the Wesleyan Guild of Divine Service: Some Methodist Responses to Anglo-Catholicism in Victorian and Edwardian England (2011)
  • Papers of Silas Hocking in Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick
  • Oxford DNB


Entry written by: OAB and RFST
Category: Person
Comment on this entry